Often the biggest decision you’ll make during turkey season is where you’ll begin the day. Most folks have a good idea before they strike out, but the best-laid plans of hunters often go astray and your first stop may not be your last. You might want to consider planning out your entire day.

If and when possible, I prefer to start my day close to a roost. If you’ve done your homework, you should have one or more roost sites picked out in advance. It’s the most exciting part of the day; the birds are the most vocal and if all goes according to plan, they should fly down and waltz right into your lap. But if that happened every time we went out it wouldn’t be as much fun, and turkey season would be mighty short. So you need to have a backup plan.

While gobblers primarily have breeding on their walnut-sized minds in the spring, hens are far more concerned with filling their crops when they leave the roost. Their next destination – and yours – should be the nearest concentration of food. They may linger in open areas like fields at dawn but seem to prefer the protection of the forest after the sun climbs.

Early in the season they may be down in the wet bottoms where the first greenery can be found or up on the ridges where they’ll scratch for remnant nuts that have eluded them and keen-nosed deer over the winter. Pre-hunt scouting for the freshest sign will tell you where the most likely areas are to spend the rest of the early morning.

Once their crops are full it’s time for a break, at least for the turkeys. This is also when many hunters leave the woods but the savvy ones now redouble their efforts. As the hens filter off to lay eggs and tend their clutches, toms suddenly find themselves alone and begin searching for hens. You can head off to new areas but you might do just as well returning close to where you started the day. Lonely toms return to these concentration areas as well and with less competition from both hunters and hens, you might be able to lure one in before the midday doldrums.

Midday can be tough. Even the most randy toms have relaxed but there are other things besides breeding and feeding that need to be attended to. In your preseason scouting you may have encountered shallow, circular depressions hollowed out in dry, soft soil. These are made by turkeys as they dust, presumably to rid themselves of parasites. With not much else happening, this might be a good time to stake out one of these dusting areas. But you have to remain vigilant because the birds may well come in silently.

Later, as the afternoon sun starts to descend, the birds stir back into action. Hens are trying to fill their crops again before nightfall and toms are renewing their amorous pursuits.You know where they started and unless they were disturbed, chances are good the birds will return there. You want to intercept them along the way. That means getting close but not too close.

Setting up close to the roost might seem like your best bet but it’s a high-risk proposition if the birds get by you. At best you’ll have to wait until dark to slip out unseen and unheard. At worst you’ll blow the roost. If that happens, routines go out the window and you have to start the whole process of scouting and learning the birds’ patterns from scratch.

You’re far better off letting them go to roost so you can return the next day and start the process again.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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